The Rise of 'Shoppertainment': Keeping Up With Viral Spikes This Peak Season
Heralded as the latest phenomenon in e-commerce, "shoppertainment" — the convergence of shopping and entertainment — is making colossal waves within the retail industry. According to recent research from TikTok and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), this growing trend is expected to present Asia-Pacific (APAC) brands alone with a trillion-dollar opportunity by 2025. While APAC and countries such as China are considered the trailblazers in this area, the potential across the globe is undeniable.
Gen Z, the first generation of true digital natives (accounting for 40 percent of consumers in the U.S.), continues to fuel this trend. Twenty percent of Gen Z spend more than five hours scrolling through videos on TikTok each day. Just four years after its initial launch, TikTok is now the world’s most downloaded app and is leading the charge in social commerce and the ability to propel brands to new heights with an incredible spending power behind it. Last year, a product-testing video from U.S. cosmetic brand Peter Thomas Roth went viral, receiving an impressive 50 million views. This caused stocks of the famous eye cream to run dry as demand surged across the globe.
It's safe to say the opportunities presented by shoppertainment are widespread, but how can brands keep up when a product suddenly goes viral? Especially in an age of instant gratification where speed and convenience of delivery are critical to a positive shopping experience.
Scaling Up … Fast!
With the holiday peak season upon us, demand for certain product lines is already building. Stock is already piling into warehouses, putting pressure on capacity, staff, and logistics operations. During this period, more than any other, a sudden viral spike has the potential to throw an already stretched fulfilment operation into complete logistical chaos — if the right contingencies and strategies aren't in place.
While peak demand can be largely anticipated and forecasted based on the previous year’s results along with other market factors, unexpected spikes — driven by new shoppertainment trends — can catch brands completely off guard. The results can include a shortage of stock to fulfill demand, delays to delivery, and damage to customer loyalty and brand image, especially if the item is needed in time for Christmas.
To ensure shoppertainment-driven demand can be fulfilled — this peak and beyond — brands must look beyond traditional fulfilment models to solutions that allow them to scale rapidly while remaining flexible enough to downsize again once initial demand plateaus.
Viral Spikes Call for Agile Operations
Events from the last few years, including the pandemic, have seen brands seek alternative solutions in the face of supply chain disruption and bottlenecks. Recognizing the agility these solutions present, this will only continue as shoppertainment gains increased momentum. Alternative fulfilment includes decentralizing operations, such as a multinode fulfilment network. Rather than one central distribution center (DC), operations are spread across a number of smaller facilities (nodes). This approach is perfect for shortening the supply chain, reducing transportation distances, and bringing products closer to customers.
Alternative solutions can also include temporary facilities such as pop-up DCs. This method, which is typically used by brands to test out new markets before committing to permanent infrastructure, is particularly effective in responding to unexpected micro-trends due to their flexible nature. Built with lightweight software and hardware, this solution is quick and cost effective to implement, allowing a brand to support sudden demand in a certain area without too much of an initial outlay.
Thinking Beyond the Warehouse
Managing a viral spike isn't limited to the warehouse. With the right omnichannel fulfillment technology, underpinned by an effective distributed order management (DOM) system, anywhere there's stock can be used to fulfill online orders — even the store stock room. More and more we're seeing brands utilize what's known as the "dark store" concept, however, we see a future where rather than using store space that has become redundant, current shops are equipped with the tools and training to pick, pack and ship direct from their brick-and-mortar location. This strategy provides a seamless omnichannel experience without disrupting store operations.
Working alongside a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can help brands navigate the variety of distribution and fulfilment options available, helping them to choose a solution that’s not only right for the current situation, but also whatever the future has in store. When considering a variety of distribution settings, it's also important to consider agile inventory planning. It’s one thing to staff and pivot to support fulfilment and transportation, but the stock must also be in the right place at the right time to make this a success.
Customer service considerations should also be explored alongside this to ensure brands can respond quickly to customers during peak periods. Too often this comes as an afterthought during major spikes in demand. However, should any delays occur, it will be your customer service function that's critical to turning a potentially negative experience for the customer into a positive one. By outsourcing your customer care function through a trusted provider that can act as an extension of your brand, online retailers can harness the scalability needed to meet volume fluctuations throughout the year. Having a flexible partner that can be scaled up or down, depending on activity, means that brands can be agile and ready to respond when needed.
Shoppertainment is here to stay. Brands can’t afford to ignore the power of social media in not only attracting customers, but as the shopping platform of choice. Having strategies in place is vital to keep up with potential viral spikes and remain on top this peak season and beyond.
Kamran Iqbal is a commerce strategist with PFS, an e-commerce fulfillment provider.
Kamran is an expert in all things commerce, pre and post click. As Commerce Strategist at PFS, he shares his extensive industry knowledge with brands and retailers to help drive Digital Transformation, Supply Chain Operations and Omnichannel Excellence. Kamran has spent over 15 years as an end-to-end eCommerce Solutions expert, working closely with brands across verticals to execute and grow their DTC and B2B eCommerce channels.